{soundtrack} Pandora Hearts OST 1

September 4, 2009 at 6:49 pm | Posted in FictionJunction, Kajiura Yuki, Music, Ohmi Tomoe, savage genius | Leave a comment

Pandora Hearts Original Soundtrack 1
all music composed by Kajiura Yuki (except track #24)

(released July 8th, 2009)

*I may reference anime moments from time to time, but forgive me if I refer the wrong track to the wrong moment – my memory is not perfect, and I am merely going to bring up which moments the piece REMINDS me of, not the exact time the music was played.

1. Pandora hearts
2. Foretaste
3. Parallel Hearts TV-Size
4. Garden
5. Misgiving
6. Crush
7. Tea saloon
8. Another dimension
9. Ghost Blood
10. Bloody rabbit
11. Lost child
12. Possess
13. Alone
14. Contractor
15. Will
16. Daydream
17. Reminiscence
18. Skip
19. Parting song
20. Stealthily
21. Preparation
22. Darkness moon
23. Relief
24. Maze TV-Size
25. Turn
26. Melody

The soundtrack opens with Pandora hearts – the main theme used in the official trailer and also in random moments in the series when a battle is about to start. There’s some mysterious noise, then electric guitar line and percussion jump in with Wakana and Kaida Yuriko singing and harmonizing in some pseudo Latin. The music keeps building up as strings join in and then fades out quickly after the melody peaks. It’s a fast-paced, addictive, ear-catching main theme, but it was way too short. I wish there would be some extended version on the OST, but I guess they left it at the original 1 min cut.

Ah, yes. Foretaste gives us the whole “something evil is afoot” theme. It starts off with that same mysterious noise in Pandora hearts, and then a solo cello meanders its way in, later bringing the rest of the strings. It’s mainly a string piece, but that beat in the background (that makes me think of a dark cellar) was a nice touch. I love the ending the most, where the strings are at their most frantic, and then the energy dissipates.

There’s not much to be said about the TV size of Parallel Hearts, except this cut is really good – I think the first verse + chorus were used, as opposed to some anime songs that are cut using second/final choruses to the first verse to get more relevant lyrics, etc. I like how this version ended the music slightly before the vocals, so you get Wakana’s vibrato sticking out a bit at the end.

We get a cheery track with Garden. It opens with a sprightly flute solo, then the melody repeats with percussion added, some other woodwind playing a counter-melody. It’s lively and reminds me of a dance at a village fair. I don’t remember exactly when this was used in the anime, but I can imagine Oz chasing young Gil around outside. Pity there isn’t a longer version/fuller arrangement of this piece.

Misgiving is a very atmospheric track and meant more to be in the background than listened to as a standalone. It sounds exactly like what the title implies – it makes the listener uneasy because something bad will happen soon. Musically, it’s just percussion (the light chimes in the background were the best), and the rest is most likely synthesized.

With sweeping strings and a rather staccato guitar part, Crush seems to be using the meaning of having a crush on someone instead of someone getting crushed (perhaps Oz and his little crush on Sharon in the beginning, but that’s a bit too silly for this track). The violins in the beginning remind me of a rosy sunset, and the guitar and harp make me think of nervous heartbeats. There’s also a lovely flute solo in the middle that has a bit of a fae/elven quality to it. The music for the most part is happy but there’s a slightly darker undertone.

Tea saloon, a clarinet and harpsichord track, reminds of the scene when Oz first meets Sharon in the sitting room. It also has a bit of an afternoon tea party or court dance kind of feel. I like the harpsichord part especially because it gave the piece an ‘old’ feel.

Tea time is over because we get thrown into the Abyss, or at least Oz’s daydream of it, with Another dimension. There’s an ear-wrenching scratching noise and some lazy female vocals (they were kind of creepy, like some spell or chant). I liked the music box part the best. The strings were great, but I prefer the ones in the previous tracks more.

Yet another string laden track comes our way – Ghost blood. The percussion and some of the random weird noises make me think of some jungle or forest, but other than that this pretty much blends into the other ‘string sounds of doom.’

Wakana and Yuriko return to provide vocals for Bloody rabbit over rapid techno beats. I believe this is the track that plays when Alice appears in her B-Rabbit form. All I can say is, frantic, frantic, frantic. It’s definitely one of the battle themes – it’s even got the formula (holy-sounding choir vocals + all those fast blips).

Lost child is another creepy track. It’s mainly just beats and scratches. It kind of grates on my ears a bit and I wouldn’t listen to it normally, but it does give a good impression of being disoriented.

Oh dear god, I remember Possess way too well – especially during the scene when Alice killed the chain. The brass melody and the wailing guitar just sound kind of at odds with the series. The beginning kind of made me laugh a bit – it sounded like a scratchy TV that was about to die. This melody is more like something that would be put in a series about the mafia or something because brass just sounds kind of…sleazy. And all the electronic elements would fit better in a mecha anime.

Thankfully, we have the emotional Alone right after. Itou Eri sings on this track, which opens with bells. This song captures Alice’s loneliness and nostalgia perfectly. I absolutely love Itou Eri’s clear voice, and the harmonies are even better. The delicate flute solo and strings in the instrumental bridge are beautiful as well. Random, but Alone sounds a bit like the song Obsession from .hack//SIGN, one of Kajiura’s other works.

Contractor, I can assume, is probably when Alice and Oz are trying to escape the Abyss. I assumed it would be one of the more generic string tracks, but the melody is quite memorable. This piece has also got Itou Eri’s operatic vocals, which is a plus. What prevents Contractor from making my regular playlist would be the excessive techno – sure, I can understand wanting to create more of a sense of urgency in the song, but it would be much better if the beats were toned down and the rapid piano was brought out more.

Will has arguably one of the best violin themes in this entire soundtrack – it’s the nostalgic one about Alice is searching for her memories. I guess it’s in part to my love of the anime, but the emotion is just so clear in this one…there’s this strong sense of yearning. What I like best here is the arrangement –  it consists only (or at least, mostly) of ‘real instruments’  The piano, guitar, and percussion are a welcome reprieve from the electronic beat assault in the previous track.

I just love the echoes in Daydream. I think of the vast, empty, watery realm that Jack lives in when I hear this one. The sparse bell melody sound like they’re echoing off the icicles in an underwater cave in the winter. The second half adds piano, which makes the track sound warmer. I love Kajiura’s simple BGMs – she needs to do more of this type!

And yes, Kajiura answers my request with the even sparser music-box-only Reminiscence. It’s not as catchy as the main music box theme, but it’s every bit as pretty. I think of a dark snowy winter night with the small stars not shining, but faintly twinkling when I hear this.

Silly Skip is next to lighten the mood. This fluttery flute and marimba dance shows off the comedic side of Pandora Hearts, and would most likely be Xerxes Break’s theme song…or Oz’s more whimsical moments XD

Parting song sounds more like a song about sad, forgotten memories since there’s more of a resigned loneliness than the emotional impact of parting ways. There’s just a quiet piano solo with a little bit of cello. It also makes me think of a child waiting by a window for someone to return but they never do.

Man, does Stealthily evoke detective cartoons or what? This percussion track reminds me of one of those silly “sneaking around and trying not to get caught but doing it badly” scenes used in anime for comedic effect. It’s the opposite of stealthy, and brings to mind Break’s ‘awesome ninjutsu’ in that one episode where he was trying to sneak up on Alice.

So, are we now making a Preparation for a magic ritual? I see this as a calmer version of Pandora hearts. It’s slow mysterious track and another one of those .hack//-esque ones. The instrumentals aren’t that new (the usual violin solo is still there); Wakana’s vocals are the highlight. She’s singing in a mesmerizing chant, using a lower voice than she usually does (I almost thought she was Keiko for a moment…)

Darkness moon is a spooky cello solo with the  ‘basement noises’ in the background – I remember hearing this theme quite often. The title did give me different impressions (I expected some dark violin & piano piece) but this is yet another good atmosphere track.

After spending time in the creepy cellar, we’re filled with Relief when we come out. Relief’s somewhat of a music box track (I hear a music box, bells, and other stuff I can’t identify…maybe some piano?) but instead of being rather foreboding, it’s gentle, like the melodies that play from nursery mobiles, wishing the infant sweet dreams.

Of course, an OST always has to have the TV-size of the ED (in this case, Maze). Great cut, I’m glad they didn’t end right after the chorus but instead transitioned it out with the background music. I kind of wish they used the second chorus’s lyrics (the ones with “queen of heart”) though.

And Kajiura Yuki gets ready to sign off with Turn, which is the 30-second string theme played in a lot of “next episode” previews – I think she wants us to look forward to the next soundtrack! Turn sounds pretty much like a sped up version of Will, but lacks the feeling of an actual piece, mainly because it’s so short.

I was wondering where Melody went, but you’ve got to save the best for last, I suppose. This is “Lacie,” the music box melody that Oz hears from the pocket watch he picked up at the grave. The melody is very simple and it’s exactly as how the  ‘music box’ in fantasy animes should sound – memorable, lighthearted but associated with darker memories, and nostalgic.

Final Thoughts: The first Pandora Hearts OST is both wonderful and severely lacking at the same time. As a soundtrack, which serves mainly to be background music, it does its job. However, a portion of these tracks don’t even come close to being adequate standalones (I’m looking at you, all you techno-filled ‘pieces’). I know the purpose of these pieces are not to stand out (lest they overpower the actual anime) but some of them even border on being merely sound effects, and don’t even sound like music. It’s a hit-or-miss deal, but on the other hand, the ones that do hit land with a bang. The trademark themes that represent the series make a very strong impression (good hooks, melodies, arrangements). Emotional impact isn’t lacking either where it’s needed. Kajiura’s classical-rock fusion is still going strong, and of course I always welcome the presence of her FictionJunction vocalists on a BGM track instead of having pure instrumental. As for how well the music suits the series itself…it’s not perfect but I attribute the missteps more to the music director’s interpretation than to the composer. In the end, though I’ve definitely heard better from Kajiura before, this is still an enjoyable soundtrack.

Favorite Track(s): Pandora hearts, Garden, Crush, Alone, Will, Parting song, Melody

Overall Grade: B


{single} FictionJunction – Parallel Hearts

August 28, 2009 at 11:49 am | Posted in FictionJunction, Kajiura Yuki, Music | 2 Comments

FictionJunction – Parallel Hearts

(released April 29th, 2009)

1. Parallel Hearts
2. ひとみのちから [Hitomi no Chikara]
3. Parallel Hearts ~instrumental~
4. ひとみのちから ~instrumental~

FictionJunction’s 1st single under this name. Previously, Kajiura Yuki has released FictionJunction material with the name of the vocalist featured (i.e. FictionJunction YUUKA). The main track is the opening theme to Pandora Hearts.

Parallel Hearts utilizes the vocals of four of the FictionJunction girls – Wakana, Keiko, Kaori, and Kaida Yuriko. It’s a dramatic and emotional song, which is not unexpected since it’s an fantasy anime theme. There are the usual Kajiura Yuki stylings in here – the violin solos, vocal harmonies, and rock-classical genre mix but something sets Parallel Hearts apart from Kajiura’s previous works. I can’t exactly pinpoint it (maybe it’s just the overall mood) but she seems to be developing more originality as a songwriter instead of only sticking to her old formulas. I’m still very fond of her tried-and-true methods but Parallel Hearts completely renews my fandom. About the song itself, Wakana’s voice is perfect for the main melody, though I still love Keiko’s alto harmony line the best. The girls all have voices that mesh well. The descending chorus melody gets stuck in your head easily, and the whole bridge section is beautiful. The lyrics/themes are interesting – parallel lines are a metaphor for two people’s hearts, and while they can overlap (when viewed from an angle in three-dimensional space), they will never touch or meet.

I knew you couldn’t exactly have FictionJunction without Nanri Yuuka (she’s got the most distinct voice out of all the girls), and indeed Hitomi no Chikara is a FictionJunction YUUKA song. I almost expected something powerful like Honoo no Tobira given the title (“power of the eyes”) but we have an exquisite piano ballad. It’s a nice contrast to Parallel Hearts’ full arrangement; Hitomi no Chikara mainly has piano and a light beat. There’s just something so melancholy about the piano line that makes me think of an empty room at the top of a tower with just a small window, with Yuuka singing while gazing outside. Yuuka’s voice is just so pure and lonely-sounding that I almost wanted to cry. Hitomi no Chikara is simplicity at its best and proves Kajiura Yuki’s versatility in songwriting.

Overall Grade: A+

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